Making the Article 4 Direction

The following steps were involved in the Article 4 Direction.

Step 1 – CC ‘made’ the A4D.

Step 2 – the making of the A4D was advertised through a newspaper advert and by display of notices throughout the area affected by the A4D for a period of not less than six weeks.

The notice —

  • Described the A4D and the area it relates to
  • Said where a copy of the A4D could be inspected
  • Gave a period of at least 21 days, stating the date on which that period began, for representations to be made to the Local Planning Authority and
  • Gave the date on which the A4D will come into force, which must be at least 28 days but no longer than 2 years after the date given above.

Step 3 – A copy of the A4D and the notice was be sent to the Secretary of State on the same day that notice of the A4D was first published.

Step 4 –  The local planning authority (Cornwall Council) took into account any representations  received and decided to confirm the Direction on 16th June 2016.

Step 5 – After the Direction was confirmed the local planning authority gave notice of the confirmation and the date on which the Direction will come into force; and sent a copy of the Direction as confirmed to the Secretary of State.

The Article 4 Direction was made and advertised in  May 2016. It was confirmed on 16th June 2016, and will come into full effect on 16 June 2017.

More details can be found on Cornwall Council’s website here: CC Website on A4D


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What will the Neighbourhood Plan policy on HMOs achieve?

When the A4D comes into full effect, the Falmouth Neighbourhood Plan’s policies can help assess the planning applications that result from the effect of the Direction.

They will for example,

  • prevent further changes of use to HMO in the areas already significantly affected by HMOs if they would cause harm to amenity or community balance;
  • set positive criteria for planning permissions for changes of use to HMO in other areas, subject to an upper limit.

The Neighbourhood Plan could also be the basis of ‘Good Practice Guidance’ relating to HMOs, focusing essentially on design issues but bringing attention to licensing and regulations issues also.

As part of a broader strategy to manage the distribution of student bedspaces, the Neighbourhood Plan also introduces a policy that complements those in the Cornwall Local Plan an d the Allocations Development Plan Document, by setting more detailed criteria for development of purpose built student accommodation aimed at ensuring that they have minimal impact whilst bringing positive additional benefits to the town.


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Community Engagement Views on HMOs

In the May/June 2015 Community Engagement conducted by the Neighbourhood Plan Stakeholder Group information on the community views of HMO issues was collected. The initial questions were carefully drafted not to point specifically to student HMOs but to the identification of ‘any areas of Falmouth where the balance of the community or character of the area are at risk of being harmed by changes in accommodation and occupancy type’.

Respondents were asked to score what aspects did they think harm the character of the area? Choices were parking conflict, care and maintenance of buildings, conflicting hours of activity, refuse storage, care and maintenance of gardens and communal areas, and other issues.

Respondents were also asked whether they would support the principle of an Article 4 direction that would control the spread of houses of multiple occupation in Falmouth.

Those replying to the question on whether there are areas affected by HMOs was 696 (53.2%). Of those commenting on which aspects were affected, 91% said that community balance was harmed, and 81% said the character of the area had been harmed.

With regard to the main areas where the problems associated with student HMOs are most experienced, clear ‘hot-spots’ such as Marlborough Road, Trelawney Rd, Budock Terrace, Albany Road, Kiligrew Street, Trevethan Road, Wood Lane, Old Hill, New Street, and Lister Street came through. These correlated well with the known distribution from the January 2015 CC Survey.

Respondents also identified individual streets all across the town, and 25% said the whole town was affected. There would not seem to be any areas which are perceived as being immune to the pressure for subdivision into HMOs. The fact that 826 (63% of all respondents) expressed support the A4D also suggests it’s a fairly widely recognised issue, and that those so far not affected fear that the issue will spread to their areas.

Some 659 respondents (50.4%) answered the question on the issues involved, scoring each (on a Likert scale where 1 is low level of harm and 5 is high level). The result is a weighted average for each issue as follows:

  • Care and maintenance of gardens etc: 4.2
  • Care and maintenance of buildings: 4.1
  • Conflicting hours of activity: 3.9
  • Refuse storage 3.9
  • Parking conflict 3.8

Comments added to these responses add some further detail, referring to the seagull problem from unmanaged refuse areas, damaged or missing curtains which add a sense of dereliction, general littering, and proliferation of letting boards.

Some 1069 (81.7%) respondents answered the question ‘would you support an A4D?’ Of these 77.3% were in favour of the A4D.

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Article 4 Directions & Houses in Multiple Occupation

Use Classes and Permitted Development

Planning law deals with different land and building uses through the system of ‘Use Classes’. Some changes from one ‘Use Class’ to another require planning permission from the local planning authority (i.e. Cornwall Council), whilst others do not. The ones that don’t are called “Permitted Development’ because they automatically get planning permission under the planning law.

An Article 4 Direction is a direction under Article 4 of the General Permitted Development Order under which the local planning authority can withdraw specific ‘Permitted Development’ across a defined area.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are covered by Planning Use Class  ‘C4 Houses in multiple occupation’ – small shared houses occupied by between three and six unrelated individuals, as their only or main residence, who share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom.

Large HMOs, i.e. occupied by more than 6 residents, don’t fall into a specific use class, and they are called ‘sui generis’ in planning language, which means ‘Of its own kind; in a class by itself; unique’

Change of use from Use Class C3 (i.e. an ordinary dwelling house) to C4 (an HMO) is a ‘Permitted Development’, for which a planning application and formal planning permission is not required. Equally, change from C4 back to C3 is also ‘permitted development’.

If more than 6 occupants are involved, than as a ‘sui generis’ use a planning application and planning permission is always required.

Thus it is possible for property owners to convert an entire property into accommodation for up to 6 individuals without the need for a Planning application and the scrutiny that goes with the planning process.

Using an Article 4 Direction to control HMOs

However, if a Local Planning Authority wishes to bring HMOs under local planning control, to positively manage the location of new HMOs in order to create sustainable, healthy and inclusive communities and to avoid further increases in concentrations in certain streets, it can use an Article 4 Direction, often referred to as an ‘A4D’, to withdraw ‘Permitted Development’ for them. This means that Planning Permission would be required for an HMO regardless of its size.

A4Ds have been used to bring HMOs under local Planning control by Exeter, Brighton and Hove, Leeds, Charnwood (Loughborough Uni), Nottingham, Oxford and Cheshire West and Chester Councils.

Why is the link with the Neighbourhood Plan important?

As Planning Permission will be required for new HMOs, there needs to be Planning criteria against which such planning applications can be assessed. Most councils have adopted policies in their Local Plans specifically focused on HMOs, with some adding Supplementary Planning Guidance, and in one example at Exeter St James, a Neighbourhood Plan has included policy on HMOs.

Its important to note that Planning can only be about ‘Land Use’ issues so can only control issues such as physical impacts on adjoining property (e.g. standards of daylighting, sunlight, outlook or privacy),  highway and traffic impacts, appropriately located on site provision of amenity space, refuse storage and car and bicycle parking, etc. It can’t control matters of personal behaviour, noise, site cleanliness etc, which are controlled through other laws.

The use of A4Ds to control HMOs may have the unintended consequence of reducing the supply of lower cost accommodation for non-students, leading to increased rent levels and housing stress, more rough sleeping, ‘dossing’ or ‘sofa surfing’, squatting, and so on.

Therefore it is important that the specific planning policies riding with an A4D requiring planning permission for HMOs should be carefully balanced, to ensure that whist further HMOs in ‘saturated’ areas may be resisted, they will be permitted in other areas where there is the capacity for more, subject to appropriate planning conditions.

See also: Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) and the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended)
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